Managing a music collection in the digital age

Internet

This post is about music. Every day, a new startup founder thinks it’s time to “disrupt” the music industry with fancy new business models. But the truth is, there are more than enough music related startups, but there’s still no easy way for me to manage my digital music. Whether it’s paid downloads from iTunes or a paid subscription to a music streaming service.

I have listed a few key observations that show why digital music management is still difficult:

  • Listening to music in the cloud has become the default.
  • Listening happens through several providers (e.g. combining music streams from Soundcloud and Youtube)
  • Migrating a “digital” playlist from one provider to another is guaranteed to give problems. Not every service offers the same music, so when moving from one service another, data can just “disappear”.

Although moving to the cloud seems like a logical and inevitable thing to do, there are still some gaps in areas where users could have more control over their digital music collections. With this in mind I created some tools that help users (like me) manage their digital music collections.

Hypemachine -> Spotify

I started with solving a personal annoyance of mine; not being able to sync playlists from the Hype Machine with Spotify playlists. Such a problem can often can be solved by using simple, single-purpose tools.

For example, next to my default Spotify account I also actively listen to the The Hype Machine. While listening to the Hype machine, I’d like my songs to pop up in my Spotify music library as well. Spotify already contains all my “other” music, so it makes the most sense to migrate music towards Spotify instead of the other way around.

Next, I hacked together a simple music migration tool using Meteor as a backend. It parses a Hype machine profile, and uses the Spotify API to find out if these songs are also available on Spotify. If so, the user can select songs, give up a name and voila! The tool has created a new playlist using data from a completely different service.

Try Hypemachine 2 Spotify!

 

A screenshot from the Hypemachine -> Spotify migration tool

A screenshot from the Hypemachine -> Spotify migration tool

Fusic

Fusic is a long-term project that has been developed over the years, during spare hours. It aims to simplify creating playlists together with others. Just like you used to share cassette tapes with music with friends, you can now share digital cassettes and allow friends to listen and contribute to them instantly. Currently, it is only possible to search through youtube videos to add to the playlist, but there are plans for integrating other popular music sources as well.

Additionally, there’s a suggestions engine integrated, built on top of the echonest API. There are still a lot of possibilities in this area that I haven’t got the time for to pursue.

Fusic interface

Fusic playlist interface

Fusic is an open source project on Github

Try Fusic

 

The two tools I described both show a different aspect of digital music. One is about managing songs from various sources, the other one is about collaboratively creating and sharing playlists. Ultimately I’d like to see these aspects integrated in one of the major music streaming services.
Building playlists interactively with friends, listening to the same song simultaneously seem like the right metaphors for building a social music player.